How to Prepare Data for a New School Management System

September 14, 2020 Jacqui Wishart

A school data manager preparing files for import into Blackbaud's school management system.

Migrating to The Cloud Solution for K–12 Schools, Blackbaud’s connected school management system, is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. You start with the buzz around the sleek new software and the thrill of the efficiency to be gained by connecting the whole school from admissions to development. You can hardly believe it! Then the reality of migrating years upon years of historic data from your legacy database sets in.  

We get it, but fear not, thousands of schools have successfully realized the benefits of Blackbaud with the guidance of our experienced implementation team. To get you ready for that magical day when you kick off the new project, let’s get you thinking ahead about how to prepare, what to migrate, and what data should remain archived outside of the new Blackbaud system. 

Before You Begin 

Consider the state of your school’s legacy database. Is the information accurate? Was it consistently formatted over the years? Are you migrating from one database or multiple databases? Your new Blackbaud education management database is a blank slate, you don’t want to muddy it with bad data! Make sure that you have enough breathing room in your implementation timeline to review the existing data before sending it for import. It’s much easier to take the extra time to properly prepare data for import than to rush into the new system and try to clean it up later. 

Include stakeholders who rely on data in planning the migration. Yes, having a data committee may take longer, but you'll learn a lot about the state of your school’s data by getting different perspectives. A single chink in the data chain—whether in admissions or advancement—will impact everyone’s ability to utilize the data in a connected system. Bringing everyone together also enables you to start planning go-forward policies and procedures. 

Constituent Data 

Most schools import constituent data for current parents, current students, and current employees. If Blackbaud’s education management core is your new database of record, you may also include past students, alumni, parents of past students and alumni, friends, trustees, and any other constituents that you track. If you are importing records from multiple databases, make sure the host IDs are the same across both systems, and merge duplicate records before assigning roles so the data remains clean. 

If there are any questions, your Blackbaud data analyst can help determine the data to migrate. Per the suggestion above, make sure to work with the school’s internal team on a data policies and procedures guide. It’s easy to look past this step as a job for another day, but tackling it now ensures that all departments handling data are using the same conventions. 

Academics 

In addition to departments, courses, and sections, most schools also bring over historic grades to generate transcripts for students. Work closely with your Blackbaud Student Information System™ (SIS) consultant to select the right file layout and fully understand the options for grades to be included in GPAs. Your SIS consultant will ask how often your school levels grade, when credit is awarded, and which grades are included in transcript GPAs in order to capture the correct information during the migration.  

It’s imperative to review transcript data for current students before it’s imported. Many schools can attest that the mistake of incorrectly assuming this data is sound is not a situation you want to encounter. As for historic report cards and alumni transcripts, most schools archive these offline on a secure server, which allows access to this information without having to align historic data to the new setup. 

Admissions 

Completing a current candidate import ensures that your admissions team can immediately begin using Blackbaud Enrollment Management System™ without worrying about lost data. Unless you plan on operating two enrollment systems concurrently, this import should be done as close to your admissions launch date as possible. It’s also important to prepare the data to the new standards you’ve set up in Blackbaud. If the data doesn’t align with your new application checklist items, statuses, or other settings, it won’t be valuable for reporting or reviewing the admissions pipeline. 

Your Blackbaud Enrollment Management System consultant will help determine the data to bring over, and if you’ve acquired a conversion for historic enrollment data, you can review the data that you want to bring over based on the reports you run year over year. For example, you may decide that you don’t need to migrate detailed constituent information if you’re most interested in how families initially heard about the school or how many inquiries completed an application.  

Other Data 

Blackbaud offers over 65 data imports within our school management system, enabling you to upload everything from test scores to events. When thinking about the data to migrate, assess whether the information is relevant, in demand, and clean. For example, do you need to archive athletic events from three years ago? Will people look for this data in the new system? And is it something you can clean up before migrating? 

Get your school’s data in shape before migrating and everything from training to rollout and years of usage will go smoother.  

If your school isn't fully connected in Blackbaud's school management system, take a tour to learn about all of the exciting benefits.

About the Author

Jacqui Wishart

With a decade of experience working at Blackbaud K–12, we conservatively estimate that Jacqui has assisted over a 1,000 schools. Currently working in Managed and Retainer Services, she is passionate about helping schools streamline their processes with Blackbaud's education management portfolio. A New Hampshire native, Jacqui now resides in South Carolina with her two dachshunds, Fennel and Sage.

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